Folks behind our Special Needs Blog are pleased to welcome award winning author, teacher, tutor and children’s book reviewer, Penelope Anne Cole. We have reviewed two of her children’s books on our Special Needs Book Review site, Magical Matthew and the second one, Magical Mea. Also we have an awesome interview with her on that same site where she tells us about her first book and her first teaching jobs.
Please Note: We are updating this post, Nov. 2015, to include links to our posts on Penelope Anne Cole’s most recent books in the Magical Series.
Today I hope to tap in Ms. Cole’s love of reading and her experience as a reading teacher to give our readers suggestions on how to choose good children’s books and how to encourage young children to also love books and want to learn to read.
Lorna: I read you have a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Masters in Education. Tell us about your teaching career. From experience I know it keeps you young and on your toes! Also your studies and working with children were a good foundation for writing children’s books.
<< Penelope Anne Cole: In my first career I taught adults — English as a Second Language in Spain and Turkey, as well as workshops in personnel management to government employees. After I got my Masters, I wanted to teach children, but that came after I left government service. I substituted and then got my Teaching Credential. I taught Reading in a K-8 Home School Program for three years.
I find I love the younger students for their innocence and freshness. Teaching kids to read opens up amazing worlds for them. Later, I taught middle and high school English as a Second Language for nearly 4 years. I like the older students because they have one foot in adulthood and the other in childhood. The push and pull that happens in high school is so poignant. They need support and can’t always ask for what they need.>>
Lorna: Another hat you wear is being a Certified Reading Therapist with Read America. Please tell us about the work of a reading therapist. Your bio says, “One of Ms. Cole’s special joys is reading to children, and encouraging them to read on their own and love literature.”
<< Penelope Anne Cole: In my teacher preparation program I thought we weren’t doing a good job with students who were struggling to learn to read. So I took Read America’s Phono-Graphix Training Program and worked with students who needed special help. The Phono-graphix program is great for beginning readers as well as those with sound blending, sounding out, spelling, and word recognition problems. In teaching elementary students I especially enjoyed “story time” reading and bringing the stories to life made reading so “magical”.>>
Lorna: Congratulations on the success of your two children’s book in the “Magical Series”. Tell us about some of the awards these two books have won.
- First, 2013 Book of the Year from Creative Child Magazine Award Program, in the Positive Learning Behavior for Kids Category.
- Second, a Summer 2013 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award from NABE (the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs in the Children’s Interest Category.
- And third, I just found out it won a Readers’ Favorite 2013 Bronze Medal Award! It was a Finalist, received a Five Star Review, and now this Bronze Medal.
I’m going to the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Ceremony in November, at the Miami International Book Fair!
Magical Mea has just been published, and was also a Finalist in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Program.>>
Lorna: We both review books, have taught reading to children and love to read ourselves. When a parent wants to get a book for a toddler please tell us what makes a good book for that young age.
<<Penelope Anne Cole: For toddler’s, who have a short attention span, the books have to have captivating artwork that kids see and want to touch. I love the “Classics, though more great books are written every day! The story has to be simple and engaging, and relate to what’s happening in their lives, like No David, and How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight.
I look for stories with words that they can understand, but may also have some words that they need the pictures to help them understand. I love rhyming and chanting stories, with a lot of repetition, so the kids can chant along with me after reading it a couple of times. The stories have to bear repeating. Ones we loved when my child was young are the Dr. Seuss books, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish, and books by Frank Asch, such as Goodnight Moon, Milk and Cookies — I paid homage to that one in Magical Matthew.
When reading to any age, Dramatic, even Theatrical reading, is absolutely essential. Read with appropriate expressive voice and facial expressions. Make the story as thrilling, exciting, and interesting as you can when you read it. This really helps to hold their attention and lets them know that you love reading and want them to enjoy it, too.
Lorna: Your Magical Series is written for children between the ages of 4 and 8. What features must a book for this age group have to interest the young child to listen to the story and the 7 or 8 year old to try and read the story?
<<Penelope Anne Cole: For me, I want an engaging story that moves along, with fun, silly, interesting, even lovely artwork that complements the story. We liked Thundercake, and Strega Nona. We liked silly stories, too, like We Eat Dinner in the Bathtub and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and James Marshall’s retold Folk tales, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.
And, as I’ve said, read for dramatic effect. Use sound effects. Raise and lower your voice at the appropriate part of the story. Enjoy the language and pictures together. Make the story come alive through your reading. Help your listener see the story like a movie or a scene.
Every day adventures can be as much fun as exotic ones. I also like a lesson to learn or something to discuss. Magical Matthew has good lessons: use your gifts and talents to help people and fix things; learn to recognize good character and true friends that you can trust and confide in; learn to solve problems and overcome obstacles; and, sadly, not everything can be fixed — life has disappointments sometimes, but you can face them. Magical Mea continues the lessons with: use your gifts and talents to help, not hurt, trick or tease people; listen to those who are older and wiser; some things may take you longer to learn, but the lesson is worth it.
The next book in the series, Magical Mea Goes to School, should be fun for kids, since it relates to what happens in school and the lessons Mea needs to learn there. Hopefully out in 2014. Magical M and M, jumps a few years to introduce two new magical kids and how their addition affects the family, hopefully in 2014 or 2015.
Lorna: Thank you so much Penelope for this second interview for our Special Needs Blog. You have excellent advice for parents on choosing good books for their children. We look forward to your other books in the Magical Series.
Follow Penelope Anne Cole:
- Children’s Books: Magical Series by Penelope Anne Cole: Magical Matthew and Magical Mea – post on Special Needs Blog.
Buy Books by Penolope Anne Cole:
- Magical Mea Goes to School Amazon.com Amazon.ca